Man guilty of girlfriend's rape at rave facing life in prison

(Netwerk24, Lerato Meduna)
(Netwerk24, Lerato Meduna)

A man facing life in prison for the rape of his girlfriend at a rave in Paarl said he had taken drugs for the first time on the night of her death, the Western Cape High Court heard on Monday. 

"He only took it that day to get energy for dancing," said Department of Correctional Services witness Mmaseepa Kwakwa.

Taariq Phillips was found guilty on two counts of rape in September on the grounds that his girlfriend Sharisha Chauhan had been in no state to give consent to sex, after she went back to their tent because she was feeling unwell. 

Phillips faces a life sentence following the rape at a New Year's Eve rave at Le Bac Estate in 2013. 

Phillips had pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder and the two charges of rape. 

His said he had ingested LSD and MDMA (ecstasy), and that Chauhan's injuries were "self-inflicted". 

However, during the trial, camping neighbours testified that they had heard what sounded like sex coming from the tent. 

The court heard that Phillips had later called for help for his girlfriend who seemed to be convulsing. 

She died in the Paarl Mediclinic later on January 1, 2014. No drugs were found in her system. 

The court found in September that the State had not proved that Phillips strangled Chauhan, as alleged, but that he was guilty of the anal and vaginal rape of Chauhan because she was in no state to give consent to sex.

'Obedient child'

Kwakwa said that, during her interview with Phillips, he had expressed sadness over what had happened, and said he had not taken drugs before or after the day Chauhan died. 

However, when pressed by prosecutor Esna Erasmus, she conceded that he had not specifically expressed remorse, a requirement for correctional supervision. 

"He does not admit guilt that he did it, but he has admitted that somebody has passed on because of action of some sort; because of what happened that day," said Kwakwa. 

She said that he explained that he had never taken drugs before or after that day, and was an "obedient child". 

The department felt that he could be a candidate for correctional supervision because he has a fixed address, family support and had expressed a willingness to do community service. 

He currently earns money from call-outs from leads he got while still working at Eskom, and his mother and sister help him financially. 

His current financial obligations include his half of payment towards a R1.2m bonded house he bought in Goodwood with his mother, and his car payment. 

His family sat close to him as he listened to arguments by his new lawyer Legal Aid attorney Burger Brand. 

'There has been no disclosure, no honesty'

Brand was brought on board last week after Phillips' previous lawyers withdrew because he had no more money to pay them.

The court heard that this was due to a delay in the payment of his provident fund.

Judge Lee Bozalek made it clear that he would not tolerate any more postponements, so the court agreed that the evidence in mitigation and aggravation of sentence would continue, as the witnesses were present. If Brand needed time to consult or prepare for cross-examination of evidence led, he would say so.

Geetesh Solanki, who is friends with Chauhan's mother, took to the stand to testify that what happened was devastating to everybody, especially because they all trusted Phillips.

"She was sent in his custodianship," said a choked-up Solanki. "The pain and suffering has been huge."

"It has been a precious life taken away from us," he said, as Chauhan's mother wiped away tears on a bench to the side of the court. 

"There has been no disclosure, no honesty. Until today, we don't know how it happened and why it happened." 

He said Chauhan's death also led to disagreement over whether he should be allowed to attend her funeral.

"The child was sent to this party with the accused. She came back dead," he said. 

Brand pointed out that Chauhan was 21 at the time of her death, and was not regarded as a child. He reminded Solanki that Phillips had not been found guilty of murder.

Proceedings were adjourned to Wednesday.

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